I often sit alone on my lunch breaks. I like it. For thirty minutes I can simply relax and enjoy not having to pitch or talk or do anything other than just eat my food. However, it’s in those semi-quiet moments where I find myself people watching. I become completely engulfed in the activity around me and how people choose to occupy themselves.
What I saw last Thursday was nothing knew, but it was enough to stir up some discomfort. You see, every person I saw around me was staring at a cell phone, scrolling, typing, texting. Out of everyone there I was the only person not engaged in some form of technology.
Now it was during the work day and so granted these people could’ve been simply doing their job. However, my inner journalist makes me nosey, and I had to investigate a little further. When I went to toss my trash I glanced at the screens of the people on their cell phones.
They were all faking it.
No one in that restaurant seemed to actively be doing anything other than randomly scrolling through their phones, or toying with Facebook. It made me think about how much technology has changed us as people in just the past four years.
I remember freshman year of college, Facebook was just beginning to become a big deal and AIM was the main source of communication through the internet. However, it didn’t consume our culture as it does today. Most of my friends I met through walking down the sidewalk and greeting each other. People made eye contact back then too. It was natural to smile, say hello and maybe even strike up conversation. If a boy wanted to ask you out, he’d catch you somewhere in between or after classes. Things were direct. People were present.
Now I’m about to sound like a harsh cynic, but I’m just being honest. Today I see a very different world. One where we are afraid to be seen doing nothing. By my senior year when you walked across campus, people would pull out their cell phones in a desperate attempt to look busy instead of making eye contact with a stranger. If you made an effort to say ‘hello’ to someone you didn’t know, it was often received awkwardly. As if we’ve forgotten it was natural to interact with each other in passing. We would rather put on headphones than strike up conversation with the person sitting on the plane next to us.
We’ve isolated ourselves to technology, and even in some ways hidden behind it. We would rather have full conversations via text than make a phone call, and I’ll be damned if at least once a day I don’t have a conversation interrupted because someone received a text and must feed the impulse to respond while I’m in mid-sentence.
Currently 1 in 5 ‘singles’ met the person they’re currently dating via the internet. In college, guys would pursue my roommate by acquiring her phone number from a friend and texting her. While I’m not against *meeting* people via the internet – it’s made the world smaller and networking easier – I can’t help but wonder if we’ve lost our ability to communicate directly.
Worse, have we lost our will to be present and active?
What do you think? How does technology affect your life today? Has it changed the way you communicate with people? Do you find yourself spending more time in front of a computer than you do in other activities?
I want to know if I’m the only one feeling this way, or do you all see it to. And if you do, what are we going to do about it?